Snapchat is growing up
(CNN) – Snapchat is maturing by playing catch up.
The company unloaded half a dozen new features on Tuesday to make its app more useful, instead of just more entertaining.
For starters, Snapchat now allows people to make voice calls, send audio messages, and send video messages.
There’s also a way to conduct a video call that works like a private livestream: You choose the people you want to chat with and start shooting your video. Your guests can join with their own video or audio, or watch and text back. But unlike other forms of video messaging on the app, whatever you film can’t be saved to your phone.
In addition to the chat features, Snapchat also introduced a kind of auto-play function for Stories, letting people view multiple videos in succession. Snapchat also unveiled a new set of stickers that can be used when sending messages through the app.
The new features follow Snapchat’s decision about two years ago to let people replay photos and videos. Previously, Snapchat’s photos and videos disappeared after a set amount of time.
Now, Snapchat allows customers to replay each photo and video once. If they want to view those photos and videos more, they have to pay.
Last year, Snapchat also removed the requirement to hold down a photo to view it.
Snapchat was once envied for being the new kid on the block and for putting the pressure on big social network rivals, including Facebook. But the company’s popularity has forced it to sit at the big kids’ table, where everyone is competing for one thing: attention on mobile phones.
All of Snapchat’s new features exist in some form elsewhere — on Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Microsoft’s Skype, and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook). In order to keep people inside its app, Snapchat has to keep expanding its services to match those of its competitors.
But it had better keep up.
Instagram, Snapchat’s biggest competitor, is already looking to gain a new advantage. On Tuesday, Instagram announced that videos on its platform can now be as long as 60 seconds.